The weather in April has been unusually good for paragliding this year, so I took the opportunity to make the most of it and take a day off for Hike and Fly training. 

Ben Dorain

Starting with Ben Dorain, this mountain is an iconic landmark for anyone driving north of Tyndrum and rises in a massive “cone” shape above Bridge of Orchy.

I had a number of Munros planned beginning with Ben Dorain itself, then trekking over to Beinn an Dothaidh and working North towards Beinn Achaladair. If I timed it correctly I could potentially fly between the peaks, bagging extra points, and hopefully not drop too low requiring a long walk back up. The wind that afternoon was light from the South East and I tried to imagine how it would channel it’s way around the mountains and trigger possible thermals.

But forward planning in Hike and Fly should always be a fluid thing!

My first flight was from the top of Beinn an Dothaidh and aimed to land or soar the ridge up to the higher peak to the north. Unfortunately the wind did quite provide enough ridge lift and I landed and the lower end of the spine. A short walk up saw me standing in what I thought was a reasonable relaunch point with the hope of catching some lift to save me more hiking. It wasn’t to be, and despite my best “scratching” efforts, I ended up lower than I’d launched from. 

Determined not to let this get me down, I packed quickly and went back into Hike Mode and took the pain of an hour of climbing to get to the summit I had originally been focussing on. I finally arrived at the “Top” (note: a Top is a Munro height hill that doesn’t have a clear 500 foot drop between itself and the higher adjacent Munro) at 1002m and decided that this was a reasonable place to relaunch. 

It was getting late in the afternoon and my earlier “Bomb-Out” had cost me too much time. Had I been camping out I undoubtedly would have carried on further but the day was slipping away.

An overcast sky indicated that the thermals were probably finished, however, the wind blowing up the West face of the hill indicated that I could possibly soar for a while before landing down near the A82, and that’s exactly what happened. I was painfully aware of how close I was to the official summit of Beinn Achaladair and a little more lift would have got me there for a top landing, but on this day it wasn’t to be.

I carried on soaring for a few minutes before heading down to a small car park at the bottom of the hill where I landed gently, gathered up my wing and watched a C-130 Hercules fly overhead. (note to self, double check the NOTAMS)

Once packed, I checked the map and saw that I was looking at a 5km hike along the road back to Bridge of Orchy, so I decided to treat myself to a hot meal. 

I had been flying with a small camping pot/stove which uses solid fuel tablets to boil water and in my flight bag I had stashed a freeze dried pack of Chicken Tikka and a sachet of Cappuccino.

This was my first chance to try it in the Wild! 

So I carefully set up my stove, wedged between some rocks for stability and shielded from the wind, and placed a couple of hexamine tablets in and lit them with my wind-proof matches. Much to my delight the whole thing worked first time and in under 10 minutes my water was boiling. Half a litre was perfect for adding to the meal bag and making a good sized coffee.

After 7 hours on the hills this tasted like the best dinner ever!

The flying may not have been epic, but I was happy enough with the distance I covered and with a day of perfect weather the last 5km hike back to the car was over too quickly.

Lessons learned:

  1. Take time to pinpoint the optimum launch site, even if it means walking another half kilometre.
  2. Don’t scratch forever hoping for some lift. Land high and climb back up.
  3. Solid fuel camping stoves actually work very well!
  4. Bring the PowerBank anyway! Even if you don’t think you need it.

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